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Climbing Closures & Raptor Update

Hello Everyone -

Here is an update as to the status of raptors at Pinnacles for the past month.

The raptor nesting season is finally wrapping up, and it has been a productive year for prairie falcons (PRFA). In fact, the 2013 breeding season has been the most productive on record for PRFA, with 10 nests successfully fledging 43 young. The peregrine falcon (PEFA) pair at Hawkins also succeeded in fledging 3 young. An 11th PRFA nest attempt - late in the season - appeared ready to fledge 3 more young, but recently failed (possibly due to predation or the intense heat we have been experiencing this past week). A 12th PRFA pair, and a 2nd PEFA pair, occupied territories this year but were not confirmed nesting. Falcon breeding information is listed below:

  • Resurrection Wall: PRFA nest, fledged 5 young
  • Egg: PRFA nest, fledged 5 young
  • South Balcones: PRFA nest, fledged 3 young
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA nest, fledged 4 young
  • Citadel: PRFA nest, fledged 4 young
  • Pig Canyon: PRFA nest, fledged 3 young
  • Drywall: PRFA nest, fledged 4 young
  • Willow Spring Slide: PRFA nest, fledged 5 young
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA nest, fledged 5 young
  • NE Section 15: PRFA nest, fledged 5 young
  • South Chalone Peak: PRFA pair, no nesting confirmed
  • Little Pinnacles / Yaks Wall: PRFA nest, failed
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA nest, fledged 3 young
  • Crowley Towers / North Balconies: PEFA pair, no nesting confirmed

In general, falcon breeding activity was unusually productive this season. Although we have no direct evidence explaining this high productivity, we have noticed very limited great-horned owl activity this year, both in regards to occupancy and nesting at Pinnacles. Great horned-owls are one of the main nest predators of PRFA nests. Low owl numbers this year could help to explain the high success rate of PRFA nests in 2013.

Please note that climbing and hiking advisories are no longer in effect and all advisories have been lifted as of this week. We will be removing remaining advisory signs and updating bulletin board posters this week to reflect these changes. Thank you to all staff and visitors for respecting the advisories and contributing to raptor nest successes this year. Your ongoing efforts are sincerely appreciated!

Other breeding raptors observed in the park through June and early July include golden eagles (GOEA), red-tailed hawks (RTHA), and red-shouldered hawks (RSHA) at the following areas:

  • North Chalone Peak: GOEA nest
  • Butterfield Canyon: RTHA nest
  • Rose Canyon: RTHA nest
  • Western Front: RTHA nest
  • Lower Condor Gulch: RTHA nest
  • Frog/Hand: RTHA nest
  • Grassy Canyon: RTHA nest
  • Pinnacles Campground: 2 RSHA nests
  • Bench Trail / Fire Road junction: RSHA nest
  • McCabe Canyon: RSHA nest

4 Cooper’s hawk nests and 1 sharp-shinned hawk nest have been documented in 2013 along riparian corridors. American kestrels have been active throughout the park, and 10 nests were confirmed this year. Two white-tailed kite pairs built stick constructs this year in the bottomlands but did not successfully nest.

Thank you to all the staff and visitors that have continued to provide me with raptor observations; every detail on raptor behavior helps to provide a more complete picture of raptor breeding at the park. If anyone on staff wishes to report raptor observations as the season wraps up, I would greatly appreciate it if you please fill out a wildlife observation card, and deposit it in my box in the RRM Office, or give it to me or Nate Melling in person.

In particular, thanks to the Resources weed crew:

  • Carlo Arreglo
  • Autumn Young
  • Michelle Armijo
  • Jennie Jones
  • Danielle Powell
  • Paul Johnson
  • Richard Neihardt
  • Joseph Belli
  • Dan Ryan
  • Linda Regan
  • Rachel Wolstenholme
  • Nate Melling
  • and Alacia Welch

for raptor observations. I appreciate the support!

In addition to a general "thank you" to staff and visitors over the course of the 2013 season, I also wanted to thank Crystal Barnes (the raptor biologist at Yosemite) and John Bryan (a wildlife veterinarian for the NPS overall) for their enthusiasm and support while they were here. Their assistance with raptor monitoring and prairie falcon genetics research was much appreciated!

If you have any observations within the park to report, or any raptor-related questions, please contact me through email or extension 276.


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